Pep’s penalty woes: Man City have missed over 30% of spot kicks under Guardiola

Manchester City drew a blank in their second successive Champions League group-stage game on Tuesday as Pep Guardiola’s side slugged out a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund.

Having also ended goalless against Copenhagen in their previous outing, City endured another frustrating test at Signal Iduna Park though it might have been different had they managed to profit from a penalty kick won by Riyad Mahrez in the second half. Mahrez stepped up and took the spot kick himself, only to watch on in despair as his effort was parried clear by Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel.

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City have cultivated a reputation for botching penalties in recent years, with Mahrez’s unsuccessful shot against Dortmund the fifth spot kick that Guardiola’s team have failed to convert in 19 attempts from the start of last season.

Indeed, while his general penalty record of 10 goals in 14 attempts for City is decent, Mahrez has now missed three of the last four spot kicks he’s taken for the club in all competitions (including one in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against Copenhagen), signalling a rapid decline in his efficiency from 12 yards.

Speaking after the match, Guardiola was quick to praise the Algeria international’s character for being brave enough to step up again on the big stage, while also confirming that the winger would be taken off spot kick duties for the foreseeable future.

“Listen, I admire the courage and bravery of the guys who take the penalties. I don’t know how many million of penalties we’ve missed,” the City head coach said. “We’ve done it in this competition many times.

“Riyad was exceptional two or three years ago, he shoot the pen to go 1-1 here [against Dortmund in 2021-22] to help us reach the semi for the first time. Lately, he missed. He will reflect. He can take a break now with the penalties.”

It’s probably just as well, as overall City have failed to convert 25 of the 80 penalties they have won since Guardiola took charge of the club in 2016 — a miss rate of 31.25%, which is worse than any other Premier League club during that same period.

However, rotating their penalty takers hasn’t served City particularly well either, with no less than nine players assuming the responsibility since Pep’s arrival at the Etihad at the start of the 2016-17 season. Of those nine different takers, Mahrez actually has one of the better penalty records.

There have been some notable hits and misses during that period, with Mahrez responsible for one of the worst penalty bungles with his dreadful attempt against Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League back in October 2018.

In a heavyweight clash between reigning champions and title challengers, Mahrez was afforded the chance to settle an underwhelming and goalless tie in the 85th minute when Virgil van Dijk felled substitute Leroy Sane in the box. The former Leicester City forward thrashed his wild penalty over the crossbar at warp speed, leaving the game to fizzle to a 0-0 stalemate. In fairness to Mahrez, he did go on to score his next nine consecutive penalties for City.

While ostensibly City’s most reliable penalty taker of the Guardiola era, Sergio Aguero was not immune when it came to making a hash of things from 12 yards out. Aguero was afforded an early chance to put his side in the driving seat against Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of the 2018-19 Champions League quarterfinals when VAR awarded City a dubious penalty for handball.

Instead, the Argentine produced a tame effort on goal that was comfortably palmed away by Hugo Lloris. Just to make matters worse, a late strike from Son Heung-Min put Spurs 1-0 up on the night, and the Londoners subsequently won the tie on away goals after a second leg packed full of goals and VAR drama.

Kevin De Bruyne suffered a rare lapse in form when tasked with winning an important top-of-the-table meeting between City and Liverpool at the Etihad in 2020.

With Mohamed Salah already showing how it’s done by putting the Reds ahead from the spot in the 13th minute, Gabriel Jesus then notched a smart equaliser. De Bruyne had the opportunity to complete the comeback for Guardiola’s side from 12 yards just three minutes before the break, but the Belgian skewed a powerful but wayward spot kick beyond the left-hand upright.

There was a similar betrayal of technique when Jesus appeared to somehow use the wrong part of his foot while connecting with his penalty against Atalanta in the 2019-20 Champions League group stage.

The Brazilian striker had the chance to put City 2-0 ahead in Bergamo but failed to convert, thus opening the door for the Italian side to salvage a 1-1 draw.

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